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Seizure triggers for people with photosensitive epilepsy

Here are some things that could trigger seizures.

Ceiling fans 

Light seen through a fast-rotating ceiling fan may trigger a seizure. Using a slow-rotating fan would reduce this risk.

Cinema films

Watching films, including 3D films, at the cinema doesn’t pose a risk in itself. However, some films contain images such as flashing or flickering lights, which could trigger a seizure.

In the UK, the British Board of Film Classification states that it is up to the film makers and distributors to identify works in which there may be problems with flashing lights. They should then make sure that, if necessary, warnings are given to viewers about this. However, there is no guarantee that this will always happen.

Interactive whiteboards

Looking at an interactive whiteboard is not likely to trigger a seizure, unless the material shown contains flashing or flickering lights, or contrasting patterns.


Fluorescent strip lights and light bulbs may trigger a seizure if they flicker because they are faulty. Otherwise, they should not cause you a problem.

Flashing Christmas tree lights

At the moment there is no UK law that directly covers the frequency at which Christmas lights can flash. So these could be a seizure trigger for someone with photosensitive epilepsy.

If you think you have had a seizure triggered by looking at flashing Christmas lights in a public place, you may want to complain to the Events department of your local council. Councils must look into complaints about artificial light if the light could be classed as a ‘statutory nuisance’ (covered by the Environmental Protection Act 1990).

For the artificial light to count as a statutory nuisance it must do one of the following:

  • Unreasonably and substantially interfere with the use or enjoyment of a home or other premises
  • Injure health or be likely to injure health

Flashing novelty badges

Novelty badges do not have to comply with health and safety regulations, so they could flash at any rate. There is the possibility that these could cause you to have a seizure.

Flashing bicycle lights

Legally you must have a white light on the front of your bike and a red light on the back. There is a law that says these lights must not flash at a frequency above 4Hz. So they are very unlikely to trigger a seizure in someone with photosensitive epilepsy.

Strobe lights 

You may come across strobe lights in places like night clubs, discos and theme parks.

In the UK, the flash rate of strobe lights is restricted to a maximum of four flashes a second by the Health and Safety Executive. This rate is considered to be safe for most people. However, some people with photosensitive epilepsy may still find strobe lights could trigger a seizure.


Some high contrast or moving patterns can trigger seizures in some people with photosensitive epilepsy. Here are some examples.

  • Black and white stripes
  • Some patterned materials and wallpapers
  • Large areas of floor and ceiling tiles with high contrast lines
  • Looking down a moving escalator


Being in sunlight is unlikely to trigger a seizure if you have photosensitive epilepsy. However, looking directly at certain patterns connected with sunlight could trigger a seizure. Here are some examples.

  • Sunlight through slatted blinds
  • Sunlight through trees, viewed from a moving vehicle
  • Sunlight reflected off moving water
  • Sunlight through moving leaves 
  • Sunlight through railings, as you move past them

Sun beds

Sun beds may trigger a seizure if the tubes flicker because they are faulty. Otherwise, they should not cause you a problem.

Wind turbines

In the UK, the flicker frequency of wind turbines on wind farms should be limited to 3 Hz. This flicker rate is unlikely to trigger a seizure. 

Wind turbines that are not on wind farms are not subject to the same planning regulations as wind farms. If a turbine is in the wrong position in relation to the sun, it could create a strobe effect. This could trigger a seizure for some people with photosensitive epilepsy.

If you live in the UK and have concerns about a planned or existing wind farm, you may wish to contact Renewable UK, who can provide contact details of specific wind farm operators.

If you would like to see this information with references, visit the Advice and Information references section of our website or contact our Epilepsy Action freephone Helpline on 0808 800 5050.


Our thanks

Epilepsy Action would like to thank Professor G F A Harding, Emeritus Professor of Clinical Neurophysiology, Aston University and also Professor Stefano Seri, Professor of Clinical Neurophysiology at Aston University and Consultant at the Birmingham Children’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust for their contribution to this information.

This information has been produced under the terms of The Information Standard.

  • Updated March 2015
    To be reviewed March 2018

Comments: read the 10 comments or add yours


yes being in direct sunlight can cause them. I walk outside and can drop me. When they started it was caused by flashing light now just the brightness of the sun. Light in my house mess with me. I can't get anything over 40 Wyatt.

Submitted by Mindy on

Hi Mindy
This must be very difficult and distressing for you.

I hope you are still seeing a doctor about your epilepsy, to see if they can do anything to improve your quality of life.

Diane Wallace
Epilepsy Action Advice and Information Services Team

Submitted by Diane, Epilepsy... on

Your site is so helpful. I was diagnosed with photosensitive epilepsy when I was 16( I am now 43), nothing was known about it then, triggers or causes. I have just read all your website and am nearly in tears because it make so much sense and I wish that I had had access to this information when I was initially diagnosed with this condition

Submitted by Lu on

Dear Lu

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Epilepsy Action Advice and Information Team

Submitted by Diane@Epilepsy ... on

Hi, my daughter has been diagnosed with photosensitive epilepsy and when we were talking to her consultant today about going to Disney in the summer and she said that there are filter glasses that we can get so that she can still enjoy the night time parades, could you advice me on what to get and where to get them please.

Many Thanks

Lindsay Powell

Submitted by lindsay powell on

I am a canoe leader and have recently been told that we should not be using head torches that flash since they can trigger epilepsy. We use these for night paddles and the logic of using a flashing red light is that it is easier to pick up amongst other lights in the environment and therefore helps to make the activity safer. White light is easier to loose amongst other flights and also spoils night vision. Can you advise me on the likely hood of the flashing red light triggering an epileptic episode.

Submitted by John Wilkinson on

Hello John

A small number of people who have photosensitive epilepsy have reported seizures when they were very close to red flashing bicycle lights, usually when they were setting them up. We are not aware of these head torches, but if they are similar to the bicycle lights then you need to be aware of someone with photosensitive epilepsy looking into the light close up.  

However, at a distance, although some people find these bicycle lights uncomfortable, they are unlikely to trigger seizures, even in people with photosensitive epilepsy.

Epilepsy Action Helpline Team

Submitted by Karen, Epilepsy... on

I was wondering if we can get filter glasses in the uk?
my younger sister (she is 15 but only the size of a 10 year old) is not having a good start to the this year she has been having more and more seizures every week and it seems to be traveling to and from school or when we travel as a family she is having to go to hospital as they started to last for up to 20 minutes that's the worse one so far it took 15 minutes after the buckle for her to stop and she didn't really come round for another hour after.
she use to just have very small ones and would be in and out within minutes
I worry for my mum and sister because what is out there to protect her at night when no one can see it happening ???
any advice would be great
thank you

Submitted by vicky on

Hi Vicky
I believe it is possible to get different coloured lenses in glasses. You’d need to talk to the optician about this.
In case your sister has photosensitive epilepsy, I am linking you to all our information about it. https://www.epilepsy.org.uk/info/photosensitive-epilepsy
Sometimes when no epilepsy medicines are working a person can ask for a full review of the condition with an epilepsy specialist. It is possible this is what your sister needs: https://www.epilepsy.org.uk/info/diagnosis/getting-right-treatment-care-...
Meanwhile, depending on the type of seizures she has, she may benefit from a bed alarm: https://www.epilepsy.org.uk/info/daily-living-aids#alarms
I do hope this information is helpful.
Epilepsy Action Helpline Team

Submitted by Cherry, Epileps... on

Thank you for publishing this article. We appreciate you spending time to put
this together.

Submitted by Andrews Carpet ... on